These are the sort of times I, as a journalist, should be relishing. It has become an over-used adjective in the past fortnight, but these truly are unprecedented times. A worldwide pandemic leading to the UK-wide end of face-to-face teaching in schools and colleges. Exams and assessments cancelled.
There has been no shortage of fast-paced, important news and we at Tes have tried our hardest to bring this to the FE sector in as balanced and quick a way as is possible – from the closure announcements to letters of thanks from government ministers, from guidance on how students should now be assessed to the possible impact the coronavirus pandemic may have on the timeline for the introduction of T levels.
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But actually, much more than anything, it has been an incredibly unsettling time for everyone, including those in the FE sector, as well as us journalists covering it. There is genuine distress and fear for your own health, as well as that of family and loved ones, as well as more general concern for society as a whole. People have been stressed and unsettled. And for those in education, there has also been genuine worry about learners and their futures.
And, as always, the FE sector has put learners first – finding ways to keep offering services for the most vulnerable of the college sector’s learners and teaching from home offices, living rooms and garden sheds. That is particularly challenging, of course, in the most practical of the vocational subjects taught in FE colleges, such as construction, beauty therapy and health and hospitality.
The routes taken are as diverse as the sector itself – from colleges providing food parcels for students normally relying on their institutions, to keeping libraries open to help with access, to lecturers speaking to each of their students to ensure they are OK.
So while it is crucial that we keep abreast of the latest developments – and we will certainly keep reporting on those – now is also the time to keep lifting our heads and looking at the great things happening in FE. People will find it harder to remain connected to each other and to the wider world, and so this is the perfect time to bring the very best examples of good practice into your homes.
Some of that has already made its way on to Tes FE – principals highlighting how their college was continuing to serve the community, training providers making the best of a situation of great uncertainty, and teaching staff truly going the extra mile to offer useful teaching content to their learners. Earlier today, we published a piece by Michelle Howie, from Ayrshire College, who has created a whole series of videos for her beauty therapy students – and this is the first of a range of subjects we plan to shine a light on over the coming weeks.
We have asked the sector to share experiences and successes – and I hope you continue to do so. Because there is now a need for the sector to get connected and support each other in a way that maybe so far, it never has had to. A bit of positivity can go a long way in that.
And maybe this way, whether you are a lecturer, a support staff member or a senior leader, whether you are in Dundee or Portsmouth or Cardiff or Belfast, over the coming weeks, you will be reminded that your sector is still out there – continuing to do what it does best.